Owners vow to fight first provincewide pit bull ban in Canada as it becomes law

National Post

Owners vow to fight first provincewide pit bull ban in Canada as it becomes law

Gillian Livingston
Canadian Press
Sunday, August 28, 2005

TORONTO (CP) – Canada’s first provincewide pit bull ban is already facing a challenge by those who call it arbitrary and say it fails to deal with the real issue of preventing bites by vicious animals.

Pit bull supporters in Ontario insist that banning one breed is unfair and that bad owners who want to train an animal to be aggressive will simply turn to another type of dog.

“The breed-specific legislation is unacceptable,” said Natalie Kemeny, co-founder of Advocates for the Underdog, a dog rescue group in Windsor, Ont.

“I don’t believe it’s going to solve the problem in Ontario,” said Kemeny.

She plans to attend a candlelight vigil at the provincial legislature Sunday in an effort to urge politicians to “punish the deed, not the breed.”

Irate dog owners and breeders have also hired renowned defence lawyer Clayton Ruby to challenge the law, claiming it violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because it is too vague and unscientific. Ruby is scheduled to hold a press conference at his Toronto office on Monday.

Kemeny said the government needs to crack down on bad owners, because they’re responsible for making pit bulls aggressive.

“What’s (Attorney General) Michael Bryant going to do when . . . these same people that are being irresponsible with this type of dog are now going to move onto the next dog?” Kemeny asked.

“What’s going to happen? Is it going to be someone else’s breed that’s next?”

Those opposed to the ban commend the government for parts of the new law that boost fines and add jail time for owners of any dog that bites, regardless of breed.

But those who have felt or seen the piercing teeth of a pit bull say the new rules are necessary to make the province’s streets safer.

“I’ve seen enough, I’m glad the law is finally coming into effect,” Louise Ellis said.

The Toronto woman recalls watching helplessly, 11 years ago, as a pit bull sank its teeth into the face of her then-five-year-old daughter, Lauren.

The pair were walking together when the girl asked the owner of the unleashed dog if it was nice, and if she could pet it. The dog lunged and attacked. It didn’t let go until the little girl lost consciousness. It took 300 stitches to close the wounds.

The girl, who is now 16, will forever bear the scars from that mauling. The dog was destroyed.

Ellis calls herself a dog lover and owns an English springer spaniel. But she insisted pit bulls are unlike other dogs because they are bred for their strength.

“There’s a big difference between pit bulls and other dogs,” she said. “When they bite, they sink their teeth in, they rip, they tear, they pull.”

“They don’t just nip and go away,” Ellis said.

The dogs are comparable to a weapon when in the hands of an irresponsible owner, she said.

“I don’t believe that they should be bred for people to own in Ontario, or anywhere else for that matter.”

The law allows pit bulls already in the province as of Monday to stay – deemed “restricted” animals – as long as they’re sterilized and kept muzzled and leashed in public. There’s a 60-day grace period, until Oct. 28, for owners to comply with the law.

Under the law, it is illegal to breed pit bulls or to import them into the province. Puppies born within 90 days – by Nov. 27 – will also be considered restricted and can stay in Ontario.

Any pit bull born after that will have to be shipped out of the province, sent to a research facility or destroyed.

© The Canadian Press 2005

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